Tomorrow is my 45th birthday, so today I look back at this past year. I had a wonderful 44th year – one of the best of my life! If I had to pick one word to sum up this fantastic year, it would be travel. I traveled to Memphis three times for the Grand Opening of the Guest House at Graceland, for the Grand Opening of Elvis Presley’s Memphis and for Elvis Week 2017. I traveled to eight cities for ten U2 concerts. I traveled to Florida for my Mom’s 70th birthday. In addition to visiting Graceland and seeing U2, I went to four Grizzlies games, two NKOTB concerts, Brady Anderson’s Maryland Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, two Orioles games, a Depeche Mode concert and read 37 books. It was quite the busy year!
Just a few weeks after my 44th birthday, I was off to Memphis for the Grand Opening of the Guest House at Graceland, a beautiful resort next to Graceland that exceeded my expectations. During my stay in Memphis October 26 through 31st, I stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel for its final night, enjoyed everything the lovely Guest House had to offer, attended ribbon cutting ceremonies, a nighttime tour of Graceland, panel discussions with folks from the Elvis world including Priscilla Presley and Jerry Schilling, sort of met Jerry again (well he said hello to me), went to an Elvis gospel concert and attended the first two home Grizzlies games. Out of all the Elvis Weeks I have been to and will go to, nothing will ever beat this Grand Opening weekend of the Guest House at Graceland. It was like a mini Elvis Week, but even better because it was more relaxed and all the events were included with our stay (no additional charge) and took place at the Guest House. Also, everyone from the Elvis world were just hanging around in the lobby because they were all staying at the Guest House. It was the best time and will always be a favorite of mine. If you would like to read more about my amazing extended weekend in Memphis (including photos and videos), please click here.
Just a few days after I returned from Memphis, I was off to Glen Burnie to attend the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet on November 3rd. I was there to witness my favorite Brady Anderson get inducted. I was seated at the third table from the stage, but dead center. There was also a silent auction, which I won a framed autographed Brady Anderson Orioles jersey. Cal Ripken came out from behind the stage to induct Brady. I ran into Brady alone in the hall and congratulated him and he said, “Thank you.” Then I asked him for a photo – he said of course. He put his arm around me, and I put mine around him. After I took about five selfies, he said I’m glad I looked taller than you in the picture. He walked away then I realized none of the photos took. I was crushed! About 10 minutes later, I found him alone walking up to the bar and told him I don’t know what happened but none of the photos took. He said, “probably because I was in the picture.” Then I snapped one real quick, but it wasn’t as good as the ones that didn’t take but at least I got one to remember the night – not that I could forget. If you would like to see all my photos from that night, please click here.
A few weeks later on November 23rd, I drove up to Philadelphia for the Grizzlies – 76ers game. Since it was Thanksgiving Eve, I left VERY early to avoid traffic and just hung out at Xfinity Live until the doors opened. My Grizzlies won in Doublt Overtime and I met and my photo with Marc Gasol – and didn’t get my Thanksgiving turkey cooked until 4am (I like a turkey sandwich for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.) If you would like to read about this exciting game and see the vids and pics, please click here.
I had a great Christmas with my parents and Cindy’s family and celebrated Cindy’s birthday at the new MGM Casino at National Harbor. Then on January 18th, Cindy and I went to the Grizzlies – Wizards game in DC. We took the metro into the city and pregamed at the Green Turtle before the doors opened. Sadly the Grizzlies did not win, but I did finally get to meet and get my photo with Chandler Parsons. To see all my photos and videos from the Grizz-Wiz game, please click here.
A little over a week later, I was headed to Ft. Myers, Florida to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday on February 1st. My parents and I had a great time! We went to Happy Hour, hit the slots at the casino, had the best meal at an exclusive restaurant and of course Mom’s Birthday Party/Driveway Cocktails/Pizza Party. To see all the photos from my four days in Ft. Myers, please click here.
I went back to Memphis March 1-5 for the Grand Opening of Elvis Presley’s Memphis, which is the new visitor and entertainment center at Graceland. It was absolutely fabulous! We took the Ultimate VIP tour, which was about 10 of us with a tour guide and included lunch (eat at Vernon’s Smokehouse it’s delicious!). We went back through the mansion again again that day and stayed until they literally kicked us out. We stood in the foyer looking into my favorite Living Room for an hour while other groups just passed us by. And the ‘we’ and ‘us’ I am referring to are my new Elvis friends I made on this trip. My friend Caroline introduced me to her friends Julia and Delia, and the four of us hung out together most of the weekend. There were no panels or conversations, but there were Elvis movies throughout the day every day. We went back through the new exhibits every day, and I ate all my meals at EPs Bar and Grill at the Guest House. I again stayed at the wonderful Guest House at Graceland. If you would like to read more about the Grand Opening of Elvis Presley’s Memphis (including photos and videos), please click here.
From June 3rd to July 1st, I saw 10 U2 concerts in eight cities. This was the 30th Anniversary of The Joshua Tree (my favorite album). I missed the tour back in 1987 because I was 14 and not allowed to go to concerts, so I wasn’t going to miss it a second time. I saw two shows in Chicago, then one in Pittsburgh, Miami, Louisville, Philadelphia, DC, two in New Jersey, and my 100th U2 show (since 1992) in Cleveland. My friend Sharon was my traveling buddy and companion to most of these shows. We had a great time. But I also met up with old friends and made some new ones. Hearing the Joshua Tree album played in order in its entirety, connecting with old friends, the Larry “Elevation” cam and seeing my 100th U2 concert made for a memorable tour! For a full recap of my U2 30th Anniversary Joshua Tree Tour (including photos and videos), please click here.
In the middle of my 10 U2 shows in June, I also went two New Kids on the Block concerts. I saw NKOTB in DC on June 25th and in Cleveland on June 30th. The show in DC was fun and I had a good seat dead center on the floor about 12 rows from the stage, but the show in Cleveland was fantastic as I was in the pit in the middle of three stages (and catwalks). I didn’t know where to look (because there were new kids all around) and my neck hurt from looking up because I was THAT close to them! The set list represented songs from every album over two hours of high energy NKOTB fun! Please click here and here to see my photos from my two NKOTB Total Package Tour shows.
After a much needed break in July, I headed back to Memphis for Elvis Week, the 40th Anniversary. From August 11th until August 18th, I toured Graceland and Elvis Presley’s Memphis, met new Elvis friends and reconnected with old ones, enjoyed southern cooking, attended panels and discussions about Elvis by Elvis’ friends including Priscilla Presley and Jerry Schilling, enjoyed the comforts of the Guest House, attended two concerts, bought many books, spent the night at the annual candlelight vigil, attended book signings and meet and greets with those from the Elvis world including my highlight meeting and getting my photo with Jerry Schilling and Linda Thompson. To read about each of my seven days of Elvis Week 2018 in detail (complete with photos and videos), please click here.
The day after I got back from Elvis Week in Memphis, I went to the 25th Anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards celebration on August 19th. This was only my second Orioles game of the season (I also went in May). Before the Orioles game, five members of the 1992 Orioles (including Brady Anderson) competed in a home run contest (Brady won!) and then the members of the 1992 team (including Cal Ripken) were introduced. It was fantastic! That was my team. That is when I absolutely loved the Orioles and baseball. I could have left after that and been fine, but Cindy and I stayed for the regular game. To see all of my photos from the 25th Anniversary celebration, please click here.
On September 7th, Cindy and I went to DC to see Depeche Mode – her favorite band. This was my third time seeing Depeche Mode. We had great seats dead center 16th row on the floor. It was a good show even though I only knew about half of the songs. We had a great time. To read all about our night with Depeche Mode, please click here.
When I wasn’t traveling to Memphis or to concerts or games, I was home with my dogs reading and listening to records (yes as in vinyl). I’ve become quite obsessed with books and vinyl this past year and am trying to grow my collection of both. I read 37 books this past year. For a few years now I have vowed to read more and this is the first year I actually did it. Last year I read 13 books and vowed to double that, so I more than met my goal. I read non-fiction: memoirs, biographies and histories (although this year I also read The Bell Jar). Of the 37 books I read, 23 of them were about Elvis. It seems something has overtaken me, and my Elvis obsession has grown even more than it already was. My other obsessions like U2 and the Broncos have lessened – I still love them but like a regular fan not crazy obsessed fan. I just want to sit home and read and listen to my records, but this coming year I vow half of the books I read will be about something other than Elvis. To see what I’ve read, what I’m reading and what I want to read, please click here.
This coming year, my 45th, already looks like it’s going to be another great one (with the exception of my dog Elvis’ illness but so far he acts fine so I can’t even think about that yet). My 45th birthday will be spent much like my 44th except this year my parents haven’t left for Florida yet so my mom is making me her delicious lasagna. I am going to have Ledo’s Pizza for breakfast, amazing Lasagna for dinner and read in between – the perfect day it shall be. I have three trips to Memphis already planned (already booked my room at the Guest House for all three trips) for New Year’s Eve, my return to the Beale Street Music Festival in May and for Elvis Week in August (staying two days longer than I did this year). I already have tickets for the Grizzlies and Broncos games in DC in December. I am sure some other concerts will come up, but I won’t be traveling to any. Only going to go to local shows this year. And when I’m not in Memphis or at a concert or a game, I will be home with my dogs reading and listening to my records.